BEETHOVEN'S PIANO SONATA N0. 21, OP. 53
"WALDSTEIN-SONATA"
CREATION HISTORY
AND DISCUSSION OF MUSICAL CONTENT






Beethoven around 1803



INTRODUCTION

What do an early Bonn Beethoven patron, a new piano and a "favored Andante" have to do with this sonata?  Perhaps, these particulars provide an outer frame work for this sonata, in their own way.  While we will be trying to arrive at a time frame for the creation of this work, we can also try to discuss these particulars in order to determine how important or less important they might be, before we turn to discussing the sonata's musical content.   

ON ITS CREATION 

In order to work towards arriving at a time frame for the creation of this sonata, with respect to Beethoven literate, two possibilities are at our disposal:  for one, we can accept "time" indications provided to us by Thayer and other biographers, without further investigation, while we, on the other hand, can also consider as to whether these writers provide us with specific indications on which they base their "time" references.  

The following biographical information with respect to Op. 53 might only leave us with the first possibility, in any event, 

"Two works, composed between the fall of 1803 and 1804, should be mentioned here.  The first is the Piano Sonata, Op. 53 . . . " (Thayer: 351),

whereby Thayer's second indication, 

"The middle movement of this sonata was originally to have been an Andante, and sketches for this as well as the first and last movements are to be found in the latter part of the so-called "Eroica" sketchbook.(11: Nottebohm, op. cit. pp. 61-66)" (Thayer: 351),

does not narrow down the time frame of the creation of this work insofar as he does not provide information as to what time period this sketchbook would belong to.  

Compared to this, the following information would appear to allow us to follow our second approach:  

"Beethoven's exasperation with Schikaneder and Vestas Feuer finally reached breaking point by about December, and he abandoned the work.  While casting around for a new libretto, he wrote a piano sonata in C major, known as the 'Waldstein' (Op. 53).  .  .  ." (Cooper: 134).

If we recall our creation history on Beethoven's opera Fidelio, the time indications provided there, with respect to Beethoven's work on this opera, in the fall of 1803, would appear to coincide with Cooper's information with respect to Vestas Feuer.

This would then appear to provide us with an indication as to when Beethoven was "free", again, to turn to working on other compositions.  However, what refers to Op. 53?  With respect to this, Cooper provides us with the following information:  

 



Beethoven's Erard Piano


"One impetus for the Sonata was perhaps the arrival of a new piano, which had been sent to Beethoven by the manufacturers Erard, of Paris, on 6 August 1803 as a mark of their esteem (its date of arrival is unknown).  This piano possessed a larger compass than Beethoven's earlier pianos, extending up to c'''' instead of only f''' The 'Waldstein' is his first sonata to make use of notes beyond f''', yet it does so only tentatively: for much of the first movement, f''' remains the highest note, and the music never strays beyond a'''.  Thus the influence of the Erard on this sonata may have been exaggerated by some writers" (Cooper: 134-135).  

This information would allow for the conclusion that Beethoven worked on this sonata in the winter of 1803/1804.  With respect to this, Thayer has Ferdinand Ries report:  

"Ries reports (Notizen, p.101) that a friend of Beethoven's said to him that the Sonata was too long, for which he was terribly taken to task by the composer.  But after quiet reflection Beethoven was convinced of the correctness of the criticism.  The Andante in F major was therefore excluded and in its place supplied the the interesting Introduction to the Rondo which it now has.  A year after the publication of the Sonata, the Andante also appeared separately.  In these particulars Ries is confirmed by Czerny, who adds:  Because of its popularity (for Beethoven played it frequently in society) he gave it the title 'Andante favori.'  I am the more sure of this since Beethoven sent me the proof together with the manuscript for revision" (Thayer: 351).

As Thayer indicates, to his report, Ries also added the story of his own sufferings on account of this Andante: 

"'This Andante has left a painful memory in me.  When Beethoven played it for the first time to our friend Krumpholtz and me, it delighted us greatly and we teased him until he repeated it.  Passing the door of Prince Lichnowsky's house (by the Schottenthor) on my way home I went in to tell the Prince of the new and glorious composition of Beethoven's and was persuaded to play it as well as I could remember it.  Recalling more and more of it the Prince urged me to repeat it.  In this way it happened that the Prince also learned a portion of the piece.  To give Beethoven a surprise the Prince went to him the next day and said that he too had composed something which was not at all bad.  In spite of Beethoven's remark that he did not want to hear it the Prince sat down and to the amazement of the composer played a goodly portion of the Andante.  Beethoven was greatly angered, and this was the reason why I never again heard Beethoven play'" (Thayer: 351).

Cooper also refers to a further piece that might originally have been intended to be a part of this sonata: 

"Another movement perhaps intended for the 'Waldstein' is the Bagatelle in C, WoO 56, whose opening theme has similar contours to that of the 'Waldstein'.  At any rate, it was sketched immediately after the finale of the sonata, and has the form and metre of a minuet and trio.  It could have been intended as a replacement for the Andante, creating a three-movement structure similar to Op. 14 No. 1, but its brevity suggests it was to have been an additional movement between the Andante and the finale, creating a short diversion as in the 'Spring Sonata'.  Beethoven soon abandoned any notion of including it, however, and it lay unpublished until after his death"  (Cooper: 136).

Thayer (p. 362) then lists this sonata as having been written in the years of 1803 - 1804.   However, when was this work published?  Let us now turn to investigating this issue.  

 

ON ITS PUBLICATION AND DEDICATION

 



Title Page to Op. 53



Cooper (p. 142) reports that in October 1804, Beethoven returned to the city, from Oberdöbling, but that prior to that, namely on August 26, 1804, he wrote to  Breitkopf & Härtel and offered him six new works, namely  Christus am Ölberge, the Eroica, the Triple Concerto, and three Piano Sonatas, of which one, was, of course, Op. 53.  

As far as we have access to the content of this letter, we do not wish to withhold it from you:  

                                                               "Vien am 26ten August 1804

Mehrere Ursachen Veranlassen mich, ihnen mein Hochgeehrter Hr. Härtel zu schreiben -- Vermuthlich wird es auch vieleicht ihnen zu Ohren gekommen seyn, als wenn ich einen Kontrakt Auf alle meine Werke, (mit Ausschluß aller andern Verleger) mit einer in Vien Befindlichen Handlung geschloßen hätte, [1] durch die Anfrage mehrerer auswärtigen Verleger hierüber sage ich ihnen auch unaufgefodert, daß dem nicht so ist -- da sie selbst wissen werden, daß ich eine Auffoderung <von>[2] deshalb von Ihnen ebenfalls nicht annehmen konnte[3] -- wenigstens jezt noch nicht. -- eine andere Sache, die mir am Herzen liegt, ist, daß mehrere Verleger mit <Sachen> Kompositionen von mir so erschrecklich lang zögern, bis dieselben ans Tageslicht kommen, die Ursache davon gibt jeder bald dieser bald jener Veranlassung schuld -- ich erinnere mich recht wohl, daß sie mir einmal schrieben, daß sie imstande wären eine ungeheure Menge Exemplar [e] in wenigen Wochen zu liefern[4] -- ich habe jetzt mehrere werke, und eben des wegen, weil ich <sie> gesonnen bin, Alle Ihnen diese[l]ben zu überlassen, würde mein Wunsch, dieselben bald ans Tages licht kommen zu sehen, vieleicht um desto eher erfüllt können werden -- ich sage ihnen daher nur kurz, was ich ihnen geben kann:  Mein Oratorium[5]; -- eine Neue große Simphonie[6]; -- ein Konzertant für Violin, Violoncelle und piano-forte mit dem ganzen Orchester[7] --drey neue Solo Sonaten[8], sollten sie darunter eine mit Begleitung wünschen, so würde ich mich darauf einlaßen -- wollten sie diese sachen nun nehmen, so müssten sie mir gütigst genau die Zeit angeben, die sie brauchen, solche zu liefern, da es mein gröster Wunsch ist, daß wenigstens die drey erstern Werke so bald als möglich erschienen, so würden wir die Zeit schriftlich oder Kontrakt mäßig [nach ihrer Angabe] bestimmen, worauf ich dann freylich, ich sage es ihnen offen, streng halten würde. -- das Oratorium ist bisher noch nicht herausgekommen, weil ich einen ganz einen ganz neuen chor noch beygefügt, und einige Sachen noch verändert habe,[9] indem ich das ganze oratorium in nur einigen Wochen schrieb, und mir wohl hernach einiges noch nicht ganz entsprach -- deswegen hatte ich es hisher zurückbehalten, diese Änderungen datiren sich erst nach der Zeit, als ihnen mein Bruder davon geschrieben[10] -- die Simphonie ist eigentlich betitelt Ponaparte[11], außer allen sonstigen gebräuchlichen Instrumenten sind noch besonders 3 Obligate Hörner Dabey -- ich glaube, sie wird das Musikalische Publikum interessiren -- ich wünschte, daß sie dieselbe statt der gestochenen stimmen in Partitur herausgäben

   über die andern sachen habe ich nichts beyzufügen, obschon ein Konzertant mit solchen drey konzertirenden stimmen doch auch etwas Neues ist. -- wollten sie nun wohl diese<n> bey diesen Werken Vorgeschlagene Bedingungen in Ansehung des Herausgebens eingehen, so würde ich ihnen dieselben um ein Honorar von 2000 (zwei Tausend) fl. überlaßen -- ich versichere sie auf meine Ehre, daß ich in Ansehung einzelner Werke, wie z.B. Sonatan, verliehre, indem man mir nahe an 60 # für eine einzige Solo sonate gibt,[12] glauben sie ja nicht, daß ich Wind mache -- Weit von meir sey <es>so etwas -- nur um eine geschwindere Ausgabe meiner Werke zu veranstalten, will ich gern etwas verliehren -- ich bitte sie mir nun aber hierüber gleich eine Antwort zu geben -- ich hoffe, Hr. Wiems wird wohl meinen Brief empfangen haben,[13] ich hatte mir die Freyheit genommen, ihn<en> an sie zu adressiren.

   in Erwartung einer Baldigen Antwort bin ich ihr Ergebenster

                                                                       Ludwig van Beethoven

 An Breitkopf und Härtel in Leipzig".

                                                    (Vienna, on the 26th of August, 1804

Several reasons cause me, to write to you, my highly honored Hr. Härtel -- Presumably, you might also have heard that I was supposed to have entered a contract on all of my works (to the exclusion of all other publishers) with a firm in Vienna, [1]  on the basis of an enquiry by several out-of-town publishers I now tell you, without your request, that this is not so -- since you will know, yourself, that I could not[2] accept a request with respect to this from you[3] -- at least not yet. -- another matter that is close to my heart is that several publishers tarry so terribly long with <things> compositions by me, until they see the light of the day, the cause for this, each of them blames on this or that occasion -- I remember quite well that you wrote me once that you would be in a position to deliver an extraordinary amount of copies in a few weeks[4] -- now, I have several works, and for the very reason that I am inclined to give all of them to you, my wish that they may soon see the light of day might, perhaps, be fulfilled all the sooner -- therefore, I only tell you briefly what I can give to you:   My Oratorio[5]; -- a new great Symphony[6]; -- a Concerto for Violin, Violoncello and piano-forte with the entire orchestra[7] --three new Solo Sonatas[8], should you wish one of them wish accompaniment, I would consider it -- if you would want to take these things, now, you would have to most kindly indicate to me the time that you would need to deliver them, since it is my greatest wish that at least the first three works should appear as soon as possible, then you would indicate the time to me in writing or by contract [according to your indications], to which I would then, of course, I am telling you openly, strictly stick. -- the  Oratorio has not been published, thus far, since I have added a completely new chorus and have changed a few things,[9] in that I had written the entireoratoro within only a few weeks,  and since afterwards, some things did not quite suite me, yet, therefore, I had held it back until now, and these changes date only from after the time when my brother wrote to you about it [10] -- the Symphony is actually titled Ponaparte[11], except all other common instruments, there are also, in particular, added three obligato horns -- -- I believe it will interest the musical public -- I wished that that you would publish these instead of the already etched voices in Score

   on the other things, I have nothing to add, although a Concerto with three such voices is also something new. -- if you were to accept the conditions set with respect to these works, with respect to their publication, I would leave them to you for a honorarium of  2,000 (two thousand) fl. -- I assure you on my honor that, with respect to single works, as, for example sonatas, I am losing, in that one gives me close to 60 # for a Solo sonata,[12] do not believe that I am exaggerating -- be it far from me to do something like that -- only in order to achieve a faster edition of my works I will gladly lose something -- I ask you to reply to me with respect to this right away -- I hope Hr. Wiems wwill have received my letter,,[13] I had taken the liberty of addressing it to you.  

   in expectation of a reply from you, soon, I am your most devoted 

                                                                       Ludwig van Beethoven

 To Breitkopf und Härtel in Leipzig);

(Quoted and translated from:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 1, Letter No. 188, p. 218 - 220).

(Original: Bonn, Beethoven-Haus; to [1]: very likely refers to the Kunst- und Industrie-Comptoir that published a considerable number of Beethoven works, from 1802 on; to [2]: refers to a word that was crossed out; to [3]: Beethoven might refer to letter 141 of August 2, 1803; to [4]: here, it is referred to letter 126 of January 28, 1803; to [5]: refers to Op. 85, Christ on the Mount of Olives; to [6]: refers to Op. 55, to [7]: refers to Op. 56; to [8]: refers to Op. 53, Op. 54 and Op. 57; to [9]: refers to changes to the chorus, "O Heil Euch"; to [10]: Beethoven very likely refers to letter no. 171 of Nov. 23, 1803; to [11]: refers to the original title of this work, details of which should rather be discussed in a Creation History of that Symphony; to [12]: refers to Beethoven's having received 50 Ducats for the Kreutzer Sonata; to [13]: refers to the possibility that this name could also be read as "Riems"; particulars taken from p. 219-220).

 

 

However, what became of his negoatiations with Breitkopf & Härtel?  Let Barry Cooper report to us:  

"A different sort of distraction from Leonore concerned the works sold to Breitkopf the previous year (three piano sonatas, the Eroica, the Triple Concerto, and Christus.)  It became clear that the firm were not prepared to pay Beethoven as much for them as he had expected, and he angrily demanded his scores back.  Breitkopf, too, had by June grown tired of waiting for the Triple Concerto and the 'Appassionata', which had still not been sent, and consequently returned the remaining scores.(23)  All were eventually published locally by the Bureau (as opp. 53 - 7) . . . " (Cooper: 149).

Thayer (p. 392) lists Op. 53 as having been published by the Kunst-und Industrie-Comptoir in Vien, in 1805, with a dedication to Count Waldstein.

 



Count Waldstein
(Silhouette)




With respect to Waldstein, Thayer (p. 351) points out that, after his arrival in Vienna, Beethoven did not see his former Bonn patron very often, since the latter reportedly was travelling a great deal between 1795 and 1808, that Beethoven, however, on the basis of Waldstein's Viennese connections, was in a position to establish contact with them very soon after his November 1792 arrival.  

In addition to a general reference to Waldstein, Cooper still adds his thoughts on this dedication:  

"Count Waldstein, Beethoven's old friend from Bonn, had moved to Vienna in the 1790s but did not thereafter associate much with him. Whether Waldstein commissioned the sonata or merely helped Beethoven in some way shortly before the work was dedicated to him in 1805 is not known, but Beethoven's reasons for making dedications were usually short-term rather than long-term; thus it is doubtful whether the dedication was an expression of thanks for Waldstein's earlier assistance in Bonn" (Cooper: 134).

After this look at the composition, publication and dedication of this work, we can turn to discussing its musical content.  

 

ON ITS MUSICAL CONTENT



Op. 53 (First Manuscript Page)



In our look at the musical content of this sonata we follow the pattern indicated in our introductory comments on music criticism offered here.  This pattern offers you comments in the following sequence: 


 MUSCIOLOGISTS AND BEETHOVEN RESEARCHERS

ACTIVE MUSIC CRITICS

ACTIVE, PERFORMING ARTISTS

Each category can be directly accessed by clicking on the above links.  Therefore, if you prefer one kind of comment(s) over another, you can make your own selection. 


MUSCOLOGISTS AND BEETHOVEN RESEARCHERS

 

Here, we turn to the three Beethoven researchers and biographers    Solomon, Kinderman and Cooper:   

"With the Waldstein and Appassionata Sonatas, opp. 53 and 57, composed mainly in 1803 and 1804, Beethoven moved irrevocably beyond the boundaries of the high-Classic piano style, creating sonorities and textures never previously achieved.  He no longer limited the technical difficulties of his sonatas to permit performance by competent amateurs, but instead stretched the potentialities of both instrument and technique to their outer limits.  The dynamics are greatly extended; the colors are fantastic and luxuriant, approaching quasi-orchestral sonorities.  For this reason, Lenz called the Waldstein "a heroic symphony for piano."  . . .  Each of the sonatas is in three movements, but in both cases--especially in opus 53--the slow movements are organically connected with the finales so as to give the impression of magnified two-movement works.  While the Waldstein closes on Beethoven's typical note of joyous transcendence . . . " (Solomon: 197).

"The original slow movement was an expansive, luxurious Andante favori in rondo form that Beethoven is supposed to have removed for reasons of overall length.  That there were other, more intrinsic reasons for the change speaks for itself.  The substitute movement is an extended introduction to the finale, to which it is directly linked; at the same time it makes a much stronger effect of contrast in relation to the outer movements than did the original slow movement.  At stake in Beethoven's decision to substitute the Introduzione were issues of balance and integration in the sonata cycle as a whole.

This substitution marked a turning-point in Beethoven's practice.  There are, to be sure, other slow introductions leading into finales in his earlier works--'La Malinconia' in the Quartet in B-flat major op. 18 no. 6, for instance.  But after the Waldstein, the principle of a contrasting slow movement linked to the finale in a three-movement design becomes a mainstay of his style for about six years, until 1810.  Examples include the Appassionata and Lebewohl sonatas, the Violin Concerto, and the last two piano concertos.

By juxtaposing the contrasting slow movement directly with the finale, Beethoven brings their moods into a closer relationship, setting the moment of transition to the finale into sharp relief.  Many later masterpieces, from the Archduke Trio to the C# minor Quartet, follow this pattern.  But most revealing in comparison with the Joseph Cantata is the way Beethoven achieves that quality of gigantic simplicity that marks the slow interlude of the Waldstein.  The topos from the cantata--with a low tonic pedal in unharmonized octaves answered first by tonic harmony and then by a dissonant harmony with ascending voice-leading--is replicated in the sonata.  The harmonic resolution of the dissonant sonority, however, is not the tonic, as in the cantata, but to an E major chord, which lends a more directional impetus to the phrase, bridging the evocative silence at the start of the second bar.  Furthermore, the ascending seventh in the bass, from F to E, is treated by Beethoven as the starting-point for a long stepwise descending progression, even more relentless than the one in Fidelio.

The form of the Adagio molto is based on a twofold statement of this progression drawn from the topos from the cantata, blended with an expressive idiom suggestive of recitative and thematic dualism.  Following the opening nine-bar phrase, Beethoven restates the initial motif in the right hand which unfolds in a declamatory fashion, with rising echoes in a polyphonic texture.  After only six bars, however, the passage dissipates into a hushed, enigmatic return of the beginning of the Introduzione.  The recitative-like phrases posit an alternative to the sombre, static character of the opening music that recalls the cantata.  This brighter, more consoling voice cannot be sustained, however; the music settles even more deeply into the pensive mood generated by the falling-bass progression and countervailing ascent in the right hand.  Only after an arresting climax on a widely spaced diminished-seventh sonority and the convergence onto the dominant seventh of C do we reach a miraculous turning-point:  the descending bass movement is reversed as G rises to G#, clearing the way for a cadential progression in C major that underscores the luminescent texture and vast spacing at the beginning of the finale.

Perhaps most remarkable here is the severe economy of the thematic material and and tight coherence of its development.  In the Waldstein, the structural model of the solemn chord progression that opens this youthful work was sufficient to ground the entire structure of the slow introduction.  At the same time, the dark-hued, mysterious character of this music creates an expressive polarity that paces the brilliant C major world of the outer movements of the sonata in a new light" (Kinderman: 24 - 26).

"In the wake of the Eroica Beethoven showed a strong inclination to reshape his sonatas and quartets on a grand scale, introducing innovations in texture, sonrity, register, and colour.  . . . Wilhelm von Lenz once described the Waldstein Sonata in C major op. 53, of 1804, as 'heroic pianistic deeds' ('Klavierheldenthaten') with a 'symphonic essence' ('symphonistischen Wesen').(11: Kritischer Katalog sämtlicher Werke Ludwig van Beethovens mit Analysen derselben, ii, p. 273).  In its opening Allegro con brio Beethoven goes beyond the harmonic experiments of earlier sonatas such as op. 31 no. 1 to create an enlarged sense of tonal space.  The quietly pulsating tonic chords with which the sonata begins lead up a third to the dominant; moments later, a restatement of the opening phrase beginning a step lower carries the music to the subdomimant.  Within this broadened tonal spectrum it is natural that Beethoven should choose the remote key of E major for his second subject-group, which begins with a serene, chorale-like subject marked dolce e molto legato.  He develops this lyrical subject through variation, embroidering its sustained notes in a rhythmic texture of triplets that gradually reasserts the brilliant pianistic textures so characteristic  of this sonata.

The scale and conception of the Waldstein is impressive, yet Beethoven substantially reduced the length of the piece when he resolved to cut the original slow movement, a luxurious rondo in F major, and have it published separately, while substituting a brief but profound Introduzione in this key.  As we have seen, the pensive substitute movement is linked, in its structure and character, to Beethoven's setting of 'Dead! Dead! at the beginning of his Joseph Cantata, as well as to the orchestral introduction to the dungeon scene in Fidelio, composed shortly thereafter.  To be sure, the symbolic connotations of the contrast between movements in the Waldstein are latend rather tan explicit, and hardly comparable with, for instance, the drastic juxtaposition of the third and fourth Gellert songs 'Vom Tode' ('Of Death') and 'Die Ehre Gottes aus der Natur') ('The Glory of God from Nature'), op. 48, from 1801-2, where gloomy F# minor music assoiated with death yields to a resounding C major setting marked 'majestic and sublime'.  In the sonata, the new slow movement is admirably calculated to set into relief the luminous C major world of the longer outer movements.  Its guiding structural idea--a descending bass progression with a countervailing ascent in the right hand--is so devised that resolution and closure cannot be achieved within the Introduzione but only at the threshold of the ensuing finale.  Only after an arresting climax on a widely spaced diminished-seventh sonority do we reach a miraculous turning-point at the emergence into the rondo, which is marked Allegretto moderato.

The high G that acts a pivot from the Introduzione into the finale serves also as the crucial peak of the main theme of the rondo.  Beethoven glorifies this pitch through sustained trills as the theme migrates into the stratosphere with the left hand encompassing the lower registers with rapid scales.  Pianistic textures like these were unprecedented in 1804; they foreshadow some of the most visionary moments in Beethoven's last sonatas.  Impressive as well are the episodes of the rondo (the first of which has a 'Russian' flavour, in A minor) and the central development section, an imaginative fantasy based in the rhythm of the head of the main theme.  The prestissimo coda doubles the tempo, turning the main theme into an ethereal parody of itself.  But that is not all:  Beethoven recaptures here the developmental fantasy, and connects that passage to a series of octave glissandi in both hands culminating in the sustained trills.  Now, however, the main theme is written in longer note values; it reassumes its original shape before the closing passages of this great sonata reassert first the urgency of the thematic compression and then the magnificent breadth of Beethoven's rhythmic conception" (Kinderman: 96-99).

"There are few direct thematic correspondences between Fidelio and either of the great piano sonatas, apart from the Introduzione of op. 53.  Nevertheless, there is an unmistakable and characteristic kinship in their key symbolism.  If Florestan's "God!--what darkness here!' might serve as commentary on the conclusion of the Appassionata, the coral text 'Hail to the day! Hail to the hour!' at the end of Fidelio might almost be the motto for the jubilant coda of the Waldstein finale.  In comparison with Fidelio, of course, the Waldstein coda is more rarefied and ethereal: the sonata does not confront the world in the same direct, encompassing way as does the opera" (Kinderman: 103). 

"Just as the Eroica marks a major advance in symphonic writing, so does the 'Waldstein' in sonata writing.  Despite its great power, it is remarkable how much of the sonata is marked pp, generating a sense of latent energy which often bursts out explosively.  Contrasts of register figure prominently.  The first subject begins deep in the bass clef, with tenor e the highest note of the first chord; by contrast the second  subject is in a high register, with the lowest note of its first chord a whole octave above that initial tenor e.  The finale also explores some unusual textures: at the start, the left hand plays both bass and melody in turn, while the right hand fills in semiquaver figuration in the middle--a texture Beethoven had first explored in Var. 8 of the Prometheus Variations.  The sound is enhanced by use of the sustaining pedal, which prolongs the bass notes while creating a slightly blurred effect above.  The movement ends with a prestissimo coda of formidable technical difficulty, including glissando octaves for each hand in turn (bars 465-74).

Much of the dynamism of the first movement results from the home key of C major never being strongly established at the start:  the music seems frantic to move away from the tonic as fast as possible and has modulated to G major by bar 3.   Although it is brought back to C major by bar 14, it moves away again just as quickly, and goes further afield than usual, with the second subject appearing in E major (thereby drawing out the implications of that initial tenor e). Another noteworthy feature is a new relationship between C major and C minor.  There are strong suggestions of C minor within the first subject and again during the development, and this mixture of modes is matched by the second group, which utilizes both E minor and E major.  The finale, too, employs C minor briefly during the first subject and at greater length during the second episode.  Thus instead of his customary progression from C minor to C major, Beethoven emphasizes the major throughout but repeatedly allows it to be coloured by hints of the darker minor mode.

.  .  . 

The Introduzione, only 28 bars long, is a model of compression.  In places highly chromatic, it relates to the first movement in numerous subtle ways, such as the opening chord progressions, which in both cases contain a bass line that descends chromatically over a perfect 4th.  Although beginning on F, the Introduzione rapidly moves to an E major chord and then E minor, providing further echoes of the first movement, and it ends with a reference to the C major/minor relationship" (Cooper: 134-136).

 

ACTIVE MUSIC CRITICS

Let us look at Joachim Kaiser's comment:  

"Dem Grafen Ferdinand von Waldstein gewidmet.  Daher: die >>Waldstein-Sonate<<.  Weil der Name des Grafen sich aus Begriffen der Nautursphäre zusammensetzt (Wald, Stein), identifizierte man ihn unversehens mit dieser als besonders naturnah geltenden C-Dur-Sonate.  Schlichte Klavierspieler verwechselten den Namen mit einem Programm:  sie wären mit der Frage in Verlegenheit zu bringen, wem die Waldstein-Sonate eigentlich gewidmet sei ...

Auch ohne daß äußerliche Programm-Ideen bemüht werden müßten, wirkt im ersten Satz die frei und festlich entworfene Entwicklung -- pochendes Pianissimo zu Beginn, ein choralhaftes zweites Thema, dann kraftvoll-virtuose Passagen und Synkopen, die auf eine verhaltenere, meditative Schlußgruppe zulaufen -- unwiderstehlich, voller Bedeutung.  In keiner Klaviersonate vor Opus 53 hat Beethoven je so weiträumig disponiert, eine überprivate Darstellung kräftigster Subjektivität so glanzvoll dargeboten.

Zweiter Satz der Waldstein-Sonate war zunächst das mittlerweile als Charakterstück wohlbekannte >Andante favori<.  Beethoven tauschte es gegen die nachkomponierte >Introduzione< aus, weil ein Freund das Werk für zu lang gehalten hatte.  Aber genügt >>zu lang<< als Argument für die Änderung einer Sonate, die sonst auch keinerlei Rücksichten auf die Kräfte der Spieler und Aufnahmefähigkeiten der Hörer nimmt?  Bleibt nicht -- doch das ist bloße Hypothese -- das schöne >Andante favori< alles in allem eine Spur zu deutlich, zu geheimnislos, zu konventionell, als daß es in den nicht nur offen virtuosen, sondern auch undurchdringlich geheimnisvollen Waldstein-Sonaten-Kosmos hineinpassen könnte?  Die >Introduzione< verdichtet und exponiert förmlich ihr Geheimnis:  während der starken Zählzeiten pausiert anfangs die rechte Hand, mit zartem Kunstgriff scheint eine Stimmung des zugleich Gespannten und Nicht-Geschehenen, des Nachdenklichen und Erwartungsvollen komponiert.

Der letzte Satz ist das umfangreichste aller Beethovenschen Klaviersonaten-Finali.  Schon bei der Themenaufstellung steht Moll fast gleichberechtigt neben Dur.  Aber die Molltrübungen, die von Beethovens Pedalvorschriften bewußt in den Verlauf hineingezogen werden, können diese Musik keineswegs melancholisch versehren, die Triller können sie nicht zerstäuben, die ff-Ausbrüche sie nicht brutalisieren, die unvergleichlich intimen Intermezzi sie nicht aufhalten:  alles verbindet sich zum Ausdruck strahlend geheimnisreicher Fülle und beinahe unendlicher Wiederkehr" (Kaiser: 356-357; --

--  Dedicated to Count Ferdinand von Waldstein, writes Kaiser, therefore the >>Waldstein Sonata<<, and then, not without a fine sense of humor,  refers to the fact that [at least in the German language realm, note by the website author] since the name of this dedicatee is comprised of >>natural<< terms (Wald [wood, forest] and Stein [stone]), one >>naturally<< identified him with this particularly >>natural<< C-Major sonata, and that simple-minded players might even have confused the name with a program, so that they might have been at a loss to tell anyone who this sonata was actually dedicated to ... 

However, continues Kaiser, even without such external program ideas, in the first movement, the freely and solemnly designed development, with its pulsating pianissimo at the beginning, its choral-like second theme, followed by powerful virtuoso passages that move towards a more reserved, meditative final group, is likely to have on us an irresistible effect, full of meaning.   In no piano sonata prior to Op. 53, writes Kaiser, Beethoven has ever rendered such a sweeping design, such a very private presentation of the strongest subjectivity, so brilliantly.   

Kaiser then refers to the fact that the second movement of this sonata was initially to be the well-known >Andante favori< and that Beethoven gladly exchanged it for the >Introduzione< that he had written afterward, since a friend had considered the work too long, in this form.  However, asks Kaiser, does the argument of >>length<< hold with respect to a change in this sonata, that, after all, otherwise also does not allow for any consideration as to the receptive capabilities of its players and its listeners, and does not--which he only wants to present as a mere hypothesis--the beautiful >Andante favori<, overall, remain somewhat too precise, to much without mystery, too conventional, in order for it to fit into the otherwise impenetrably mysterious Waldstein sonata cosmos, as its >introduzione< virtually increases the mystery  . . .

Kaiser describes the last movement as the most extensive of all of Beethovens Piana Sonata finales, in which, already at the presentation of the theme(s), the minor and the major key stand beside each other almost on equal terms, while the minor key can not burn this music up in melancholy, its trills can not disvperse it, the ff outbursts can not brutalize it, and the incomparably intimate intermezzos can not hinder its progress, as everything is combined into an expression of brilliantly mysterious depths and almost perpetual recurrence). 


ACTIVE, PERFORMING ARTISTS

The active pianist Anton Kuerti provides us with this overview:  

At first, Kuerti points towards Beethoven's frugality in his use of themes.  If Beethoven might already earlier been tempted to "wear" his ideas "out" by developing and exploiting them lively, this is all the more the case in this sonata.  Kuerti describes the cheerful melody of the rondo theme as the only one that could stand on its own.  

Allegro con brio

Kuerti writes that Beethoven must have made a conscious effort in order to compose such a great, dramatic and emotional musical statement, and that with the least possible effort with respect to the material of his themes and that he had to apply all of his mastery and calculation, but also his unquenchable wealth of ideas.  One of the most important tools, continues Kuerti, is the bold expansion of his harmonic range, and he describes the contrasts as still more abrupt and fascinating, as, in quick succession, the introduction touches E-flat Major, d-minor, f-minor and B Major, before it unconventionally settles on E-Major, before the second subject.   

Also the purely pianistic color range, writes Kuerti, is expanded, as Beethoven here experiments with various ways of creating pianistic textures, and he states that this is the first sonata in which he was able to move beyond the five-octave-range of the piano of Mozart's days and, while his new piano only had four new notes, he made made extensive use of them.  . . . 

Kuerti points out Beethoven's new 'inventions', such as the unusual use of repeated chords and tremolandos, daringly jumping and broken octaves, brilliant glissando-octaves, unusual pedal effects that melted tonic and dominant, major and minor, together, and his almost obsessive use of trills that lent to the sound of the piano new intensity and continuity that comes to life through it and that can execute the kind of crescendo that, for other instruments than the piano, is a 'matter of course'.  

Color alone, writes Kuerti, can not satisfy, as also the finest herbs and spices do not make a meal.  What fills the gap here are new, emancipated accompaniments  . . .    

Kuerti then points out that the repeated chords of the introduction of Op. 53 are nothing else than "accompaniment in search of a melody" and that the texture is filled by quickly appearing and vanishing motifs that peak out behind various registers and marvels at the fact that out of such "leftovers", Beethoven could create such a majestic first movement. 

Kuerti describes the second subject as "a kind of melody", that, if it were to stand alone, it would be very pale and simple, but that it is enriched by its E-Major coloring. . . .  

Introduzione; Adagio molto

Also Kuerti refers to Beethoven's decision of removing the "Andante favori" from this sonata and describes the new, slow movement as having been explicitly composed in his improvisatory style and as almost exclusively concentrating on the ascending introductory motif.  

Rondo:  Allegretto moderato; Prestissimo

The last movement, continues Kuerti, begins with such a nebulous intimacity that one would rightfully expect a graceful Rondo.  The prescribed tempo is relaxed, the dimensions very broad--one gains the feeling, writes Kuerti, that one will and will never want to leave this space, in order to listen to the sweet serenity of the listless melody, yet, a trill, that apparently sets in out of sheer delight in its own, delicate sound, unexpectedly changes into a storm bell, that brings with it an amazing repetition of the initially shy theme, in full war gear, and it transforms the movement into a heroic bravura movement of extreme contrasts in which the self-embracing Rondo theme alternates with stormy passages.  

Radicale pedal effects, continues Kuerti, are repeatedly indicated with the utmost care; the pedal is to be held down for 15 measures, and that in spite of interrupting pauses and staccatos.  Indeed, writes Kuerti, every time when the Rondo theme appears, with its first note in the score there also appears an indication for eight measures, although also the staccato marking is present.  Kuerti points out that also during Beethoven's time and on his piano these indications have already posed difficulties and that Beethoven might have wanted to achieve a surrealistic effect with them.  

In a process that was typical for Beethoven's time, continues Kuerti, the coda tears us out of a calm tempo and thrusts us into a wild final chase, in which the rondo theme is played almost four times as fast as in its original form, with which it reaches a pulsating energy that remotely reminds us of Jazz, and this energy drives the work towards a brilliant finale. 

Here, we offer you a chance to listen to a midi file of this sonata, via the following link: 

Kunst der Fuge: Beethoven-Sonatas

We wish you a great deal of listening enjoyment!

For those of you who want to explore this topic further in a serious manner, we can offer you a link to the Beethoven Bibliography Data Base of the Ira Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies in San Jose, California:


Opus 53 - Search